The national party conventions mark the official turning point in the presidential campaign from the primary season to the general election in the fall. The convention allows the party to put aside any intra-party jockeying and squabbles that occurred during the primaries, unite behind its nominee, define itself for the voters, and set the tone for the fall offensive.
The conventions are the highest, most important source of authority for a national party. The conventions are officially the top decision-making body of the parties.
The party conventions play some important formal roles. In addition to nominating their presidential and vice presidential candidates, conventions officially establish party rules and priorities for the four years between presidential elections.
They also serve as a launching pad and media exposure opportunity for up-and-coming party leaders.
The major items on the convention agenda are:
In 2016, the Republican convention will seat about 2,500 delegates, and the Democratic convention about 5,000 delegates.
Convention delegates are selected based on the results of the primaries and caucuses in their states, with most of the delegates coming to the convention pledged to support a specific candidate.
The job of the convention delegates has not been to choose the party’s standard-bearer but to confirm the choice that voters throughout the country made months before during the primaries and caucuses.
Of course, the delegates aren’t the only people at the conventions. There are also hordes of media representatives and television pundits, along with issue advocates, from environmentalists and farmers to labor union and business representatives, who all want the party to embrace their issues.